Samsung Trumpets VR, AR Initiatives AT SDC 2017

At its annual developer conference, Samsung celebrated many of its XR initiatives, particularly those related to content. From video streaming and web browsing to photo-sharing and gaming, it's clear that Samsung wants its VR products to be more than expensive paper weights.

Samsung didn't announce new programs at the conference, but it did offer some more details about its existing ones. The company said that its Gear VR platform "features more than 1,000 apps, 10,000 high-quality videos through the premium 360-degree immersive Samsung VR service, and noteworthy collaborations with top content creators and media brands." That should be enough to ensure Gear VR owners never get bored.

Here are the initiatives Samsung highlighted at the conference:

• Samsung VR, a premium video service offering the best in 360 immersive content taking you anywhere from the cockpit of an airplane, to the depths of the ocean or the far reaches of the universe with your Galaxy phone and a Gear VR. • Samsung Internet VR, a Gear VR-optimized browser that allows users to surf the web and enjoy videos and photos on a large, virtual screen creating an immersive experience as if users were at the theater. • Samsung PhoneCast VR, a first-of-its-kind application that translates 2D apps into 3D VR through mirroring for improved VR playtime providing an entirely new mobile experience. • VRB Foto, a fun and social 360 photo sharing solution developed as part of Mobile Platform and Solutions lab of Samsung Research America, which allows users to create and share fun effects on top of 360 photos shot using cameras like Gear 360. • Black River Studios, a division of Samsung R&D Institute of Amazonia (SIDIA) in Brazil, produces titles for Gear VR and Galaxy devices including Angest, Rock & Rails, and Finding Monsters perfectly suited for the upcoming HMD Odyssey. • Samsung Gear VR Framework, an open source VR rendering engine with a Java interface for developing mobile VR apps offering a simple and familiar SDK for traditional Android developers without having to know multiple underlying VR SDKs.

Even more important were Samsung's efforts to show that it's building a comprehensive VR ecosystem. The company isn't merely dabbling with mobile VR with its smartphones; it's also releasing VR cameras like the 360 Round to encourage more content creation, for example, and embracing Windows Mixed Reality with its Odyssey headset. Samsung wants to be involved with every aspect of the burgeoning VR industry.

The company also revealed a new SDK for its Gear 360 cameras that will allow "developers to build experiences that control Gear 360 cameras directly from an app while new software updates simplify how photos are shared with Samsung cloud integration." Gear 360 owners will likely be happy to hear that Samsung doesn't plan to abandon the platform just because it announced the higher-end 360 Round (which shoots in 3D, too) at this event.

But perhaps the most telling aspect of Samsung's press release celebrating its XR efforts is the section on AR. The company's focus up to now has been on VR, but Samsung said it wants to get more involved in AR because it envisions "a future in which digital experiences like AR break through to wide consumer adoption, providing users with a powerful new experience in their daily lives." It also said "the opportunities are endless."

Considering how much effort Samsung has put into the VR industry, its affirmation that it wants to expand its work on AR could also be good news. The more companies investing and competing in these industries the better, especially when Samsung has made it clear that it wants to have its hands in everything from content creation to the devices through which those photos, videos, and games are experienced.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.